Over the course of the off-season, many pundits and fans alike have christened the new Ravens defense to one that is significantly worse than the 2018 iteration. With the losses of C.J. Mosley, Za’Darius Smith, Terrell Suggs, and Eric Weddle due to a variety of factors, many people don’t believe in the Ravens repeating their excellent 2018 performance. Last season, they allowed a league-low in yards. However, the Ravens still have their best defensive player, Michael Pierce.
The third-year nose tackle out of Samford University (in Birmingham, Alabama) generally doesn’t get the headlines that the rest of the Ravens defense do. When people think of the Ravens defense, they immediately jump to the departed C.J. Mosley and Eric Weddle or to the newly acquired Earl Thomas III. Many fans gloss over the big man on the interior, Pierce. Over the course of three seasons and 46 total games played for Pierce, he doesn’t have the greatest stat line. However, his influence on the interior of the defensive line is second to none with him disrupting the running game. Pierce has an innate ability to get into the backfield and to stop runs, as evidenced by his 11 total tackles for loss in three seasons. While playing at nose tackle will not receive much of the available headlines, Pierce plays a critical role for the Ravens in their quest to be the best defensive team in the NFL.
Pierce’s impact defensively enables the other ten players on the field to play their role without having to worry about many interior runs. With the help of Pierce, the Ravens can stifle offenses on first and second down, forcing quarterbacks to throw against a high-quality secondary and elite cornerbacks. Pierce is as influential to the success of the Ravens as any member of the defense due to his direct impact on each snap. With him clogging up the middle with his 6 foot, 340-pound frame, he plugs running lanes and some lines of sight for quarterbacks as he occasionally bat passes down.
As a former undrafted free agent, Pierce plays with a chip on his shoulder in his time in Baltimore. Having only missed two games in three seasons, Pierce has shown a commitment to excellence and commitment to availability for the Ravens. Moving forward, Pierce would be an expensive free agent beyond the 2019 season, but there is an argument to be made that he would be well worth the hefty price. Despite the presence of rookie Daylon Mack (fifth-round pick out of Texas A&M) on the interior as well, Pierce could get a long-term big money contract next off-season.
If the Ravens like to repeat their 2018 performance, be sure to look for Michael Pierce at the center of all success on that side of the ball.